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[sil-ee] /ˈsɪl i/
adjective, sillier, silliest.
weak-minded or lacking good sense; stupid or foolish:
a silly writer.
absurd; ridiculous; irrational:
a silly idea.
stunned; dazed:
He knocked me silly.
Cricket. (of a fielder or the fielder's playing position) extremely close to the batsman's wicket:
silly mid off.
Archaic. rustic; plain; homely.
Archaic. weak; helpless.
Obsolete. lowly in rank or state; humble.
noun, plural sillies.
Informal. a silly or foolish person:
Don't be such a silly.
Origin of silly
late Middle English
1375-1425; earlier sylie, sillie foolish, feeble-minded, simple, pitiful; late Middle English syly, variant of sely seely
Related forms
sillily, adverb
silliness, noun
unsilly, adjective
1. witless, senseless, dull-witted, dim-witted. See foolish. 2. inane, asinine, nonsensical, preposterous.
1. sensible. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for silliest
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It is the silliest tale a distressed generation of men ever took to telling one another.

    Past and Present Thomas Carlyle
  • “I think it is the silliest thing I ever heard of,” said Kitty frankly.

    The Cheerful Smugglers Ellis Parker Butler
  • That a man is not a gentleman who works with his hands, is the meanest, silliest article in the social creed of our country.

    Home Again George MacDonald
  • I told the head clerk about it, but he only laughed in the silliest way.

    Eliza Barry Pain
  • The silliest thing that business-men could do would be to give all their property away and turn their families into the street.

    Around The Tea-Table T. De Witt Talmage
  • “And she certainly is the silliest little thing I ever saw,” said Harry.

    Janet's Love and Service Margaret M Robertson
  • It was the silliest thing, she told herself, you didn't base important decisions on tea leaves.

    The Amazing Mrs. Mimms David C. Knight
  • Having her here is the silliest idea that was ever conceived, but you know my family.

    Dear Enemy Jean Webster
British Dictionary definitions for silliest


adjective -lier, -liest
lacking in good sense; absurd
frivolous, trivial, or superficial
dazed, as from a blow
(obsolete) homely or humble
(modifier) (cricket) (of a fielding position) near the batsman's wicket: silly mid-on
(informal) Also called silly-billy, (pl) -lies. a foolish person
Derived Forms
silliness, noun
Word Origin
C15 (in the sense: pitiable, hence the later senses: foolish): from Old English sǣlig (unattested) happy, from sǣl happiness; related to Gothic sēls good
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for silliest



Old English gesælig "happy, fortuitous, prosperous" (related to sæl "happiness"), from Proto-Germanic *sæligas (cf. Old Norse sæll "happy," Old Saxon salig, Middle Dutch salich, Old High German salig, German selig "blessed, happy, blissful," Gothic sels "good, kindhearted"), from PIE *sele- "of good mood; to favor," from root *sel- (2) "happy, of good mood; to favor" (cf. Latin solari "to comfort," Greek hilaros "cheerful, gay, merry, joyous").

This is one of the few instances in which an original long e (ee) has become shortened to i. The same change occurs in breeches, and in the American pronunciation of been, with no change in spelling. [Century Dictionary]
The word's considerable sense development moved from "happy" to "blessed" to "pious," to "innocent" (c.1200), to "harmless," to "pitiable" (late 13c.), "weak" (c.1300), to "feeble in mind, lacking in reason, foolish" (1570s). Further tendency toward "stunned, dazed as by a blow" (1886) in knocked silly, etc. Silly season in journalism slang is from 1861 (August and September, when newspapers compensate for a lack of hard news by filling up with trivial stories). Silly Putty trademark claims use from July 1949.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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